Due to the growing impact of health and wellness on daily food and drink choices, more Polish consumers are now avoiding added sugars. Indeed, 61% of Polish consumers overall and three-quarters of over-55s say they are reducing their consumption of sugary foods. In addition, three in five view white sugar as bad for their health, though interestingly, brown sugar enjoys a better reputation as only one in 10 view it as unhealthy.

The common tendency to move away from sugar does not, however, lead to an increased interest in artificial sweeteners. Almost two in five Polish consumers claim they avoid food and drinks with synthetic sugar substitutes. Potential, therefore, exists to explore natural alternatives to sugar in new food and drink launches. This strategy could help to appeal to health-driven and weight-conscious consumers of all ages.

Hunger for less sweet yogurt options

The pursuit of healthier sweet options is increasingly evident in the yogurt market. Polish consumers are the most likely among European consumer to view yogurts that market themselves as ‘healthy’ as having a high sugar content, and many believe it is important to check sugar content on a yogurt’s label.

Nonetheless, new product development activity around the use of low/no/reduced sugar claims in the Polish yogurt market has so far been limited. Between October 2014 and September 2015, less than 2% of yogurt launches in the country featured low/no/reduced sugar content – presenting a growth area for developing new, less sugary options in the Polish yogurt category.

Innovating around natural sweetness

There is a particular opportunity for yogurt brands to explore plant-derived sugar alternatives which are viewed as ‘healthful’ by Polish consumers. One such alternative is stevia, with three in 10 considering it good for their health.

Globally, the yogurt market has already seen a number of interesting stevia-based launches, including Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Flavoured Blended Greek Nonfat Yogurt launched in the US, Yoplait Light Stevia Strawberry Flavoured Yogurt launched in Mexico and Delhaize Stevia Strawberry Flavoured yogurt launched in Belgium. The products not only fit in with the health and wellness trend, but they also manage to deliver on taste and flavour.

There have also been attempts to introduce yogurts with stevia to the Polish market. For example, in 2012, Danone launched two products, Danone Activia 0% Tłuszczu (0% fat) and Danone Ale Owoc! Light, sweetened with a blend of stevia and sugar. Both yogurts were designed to speak to health- and weight- conscious female consumers but seemingly failed to gain traction and were discontinued. Awareness of stevia was limited at that time and these launches may therefore have been launched too early for the market.

With the increasing interest in more natural sugar substitutes, Polish yogurt brands could re-consider experimenting with stevia. This could be a viable strategy as the number of food and drink launches sweetened with stevia has been growing in recent years, reflecting ongoing efforts to meet the needs of health-minded Poles.

Honorata Jarocka is Food and Drink Analyst for Poland at Mintel, focusing on food categories with a particular interest in health and wellness trends, as well as product innovation. With almost a decade of experience in market research, Honorata has analysed various sectors in Poland, including packaged food, retailing, beauty and personal care, home care, tissue and hygiene; consumer health, tobacco, pet food and pet care products.

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